I pushed my way into the cool interior of the restaurant, scowling the maître d' into retreating. Moving past the bar into the garden, I found him sitting hunched over his table with only bread and olive oil arrayed before him. He didn't look up as I sat.

"Is it done?" His voice was firm, but old; there was an accent, but the sharp cadences of the instructor.

"Yes." I picked up one of the two glasses of ice water on the table and drained it at a go. I'd come directly from JFK.

"And did you..."

"They're all safe," I said harshly. "I promised."

"You did." His shoulders eased as he raised himself slightly, lifting his head to look into my eyes. "I should be able to reach them, then. More of them than if they had stayed."

"It wasn't easy."

"What did you do?" he asked, curiosity infusing life into his tones. He cocked his head slightly.

"I..." I picked up the other glass and drank. "I did things I would not have done, had I not seen that place. They were not helping, there. They were...shutting away."

He reached over the table suddenly and grasped my wrist. His grip burned with the cold of space. "Then whatever you did, it was well done, do you understand?"

I thought of the deals I'd made, of the screaming of the gateway as it had opened, and the screeching laughter of the flock as they had rampaged through the building. Of their horrific gratitude, to me, for the time and emotions they'd fed on; of the dry slither of their wings as they had slid back into a hole in the air. I could still see the building, first clean and ordered, then mere moments later crumbling, overgrown, with patches of ash where the shapes had gathered over particularly piquant remnants of terror. I stood up. "No, it wasn't well done. But it's done. There are no more children within those walls."

Fabulinus looked up at me, and looked into my eyes. I looked back and let him see.

Slowly, he sat back and nodded at me, silently.

I turned from him and left, a killer of place and wrecker of time, and not even a noble purpose could keep the taste of ashes from my mouth.

PostcardQuest2011
My picture: Children's Psychiatric Hospital

...and a small part of The New York Magician!

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